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by Abigail Van Buren

Teen Is Terrified by Family History of Cancer

DEAR ABBY: When I was a little girl, my mother died of breast cancer. I always suspected that I might have the gene, too. To make matters worse, my dad got skin cancer a couple of years ago, meaning my risk of getting cancer is higher because of both my parents having it.

I'm turning 18 in a couple of months, and I want to get tested to see what my risk is, but I'm terrified. I sometimes feel a stabbing pain in my chest and think I feel a lump. I'm not sure if I'm imagining it due to my stress and fear or if it's true. I don't want to tell my dad until after my appointment, which I plan on doing alone. What do you think I should do? Should I tell him? -- AFRAID IN FLORIDA

DEAR AFRAID: Try to calm yourself. The lump you felt may not be what you fear, but a cyst. Breast cancer in teen girls is rare, but cysts are quite common. (It might also be nothing.) That said, because of your family history, you should be checked by a doctor.

I don't believe in keeping secrets of this nature. If you would like emotional support when you get the test for the BRCA gene, your father -- or a female relative -- would be a logical choice to go with you. Please give it some thought.

Read more in: Health & Safety | Death | Family & Parenting | Teens